In our day we highly esteem the value of religious tolerance. We want to guard against destructive conflict between religious fanatics and against totalitarian control of our society by one religion. We want to protect the freedom of all members of our society to hold their own religious convictions and to practice their faith without fear of attack or coercion from those of other religions.
Our religious tolerance may cause us to be offended by the sharp antitheses Paul draws between true and false religion in this section. But if we listen carefully to Paul's argument, we will find that he is defending the freedom of his readers from the coercive tactics of those who were forcing them to conform to a particular religious tradition. What we really find here is the basis for preserving true religious freedom. Paul's authoritative appeal is not an example of authoritarian religious tyranny, but just the opposite: it is a charter for genuine spiritual freedom.
In Galatians 5:1-12 Paul calls for his readers to protect their freedom (5:1-6). Then he exposes the false teachers who are robbing them of their freedom (5:7-12).
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
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